So here's an odd thing. I buy maybe two issues a year of Stereophile, and the last issue I bought had extensive reviews of not one but two components that cost $42,000. That's not for a whole music-playing stereo system, mind you—that's for one component, in a system that will need a bare minimum of four components—plus wires, which at that level will be a significant expense.
Then I bought an issue of Automobile, which I do probably six times a year (I enjoy Ezra Dyer's column). This issue had a comparison between the Ferrari F12 Berlinetta ($323,000) and the Mercedes-Benz SLS AMG Black Series ($279,000).
I was really grateful for that. I've been just agonizing about which of those two cars to buy; I was so afraid of making the wrong choice and regretting it later that I thought I was going to have to break down and buy both of them! The article really let me rest my mind. They say to get the Ferrari, and that's good enough for me.
Leica S (this is the S2): The outlier.
Seriously, though, who cares about these things? I know several people who are (probably) wealthy enough to buy $300,000 cars, but I don't know a single person who would actually spend that much.
As far as stereo equipment is concerned, I have a basic rule: never buy anything with the words "Signature," "Reference," or the name of a precious metal or stone in the name.
I suppose people like reading about such things—$42,000 preamps and $323,000 cars. I don't. I agree that products tend to enter your interest range when they're at the top of or just barely beyond your ability to afford them, but there are some things I really believe I'd never buy even if I were a billionaire. When I read about fantasy cars, I might read about something that costs $90,000. But I don't even want to read about something that costs $900,000. It doesn't entertain me. I'm not interested. It's just ostentation, excess, and showing off, and I'm not susceptible to the allure of any of those things. Even in my daydreams.
The outside of my "fantasy" envelope where cameras are concerned is the Leica S. I'd never buy one, but I'm interested in reading about it. But that's as far as it goes. That's the edge. (My photographic daydreams revolve more around free time, and help.)
So what's the most expensive car you'll daydream about?
Mike"Open Mike" appears on TOP only, but not always, on Sundays.
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(To see all the comments, click on the "Comments" link below.)
Featured Comments from:
David Bostedo (partial comment): "...Price is only one factor that affects interest."
David Lonsdale (partial comment): "The main thing is [not to] disrupt the family finances."
Bryce Lee: "Motor vehicle? They are all too expensive in ways other than monetary. In my case, two strikes against me: close to seven feet tall and 400 pounds means nothing 'normal' will fit, although my Honda Ridgeline Truck with the driver's seat set four inches back is OK; my knees still hit the lower controls now and then. Long term? As I age I find the physical requirements of driving aany vehicle to be kind tiresome, and dangerous. So if I had my druthers, 1922 Rolls-Royce with seperate compartment for the chauffeur. It would mean paying somebody to drive, maintain and geneally keep the vehicle looking good. And it would be driven by somebody else rather than me being driven, if you catch my drift."
John Camp: "I don't dream of particular cars, but of particular performance. I want a car that handles well, is fast, and can take at least medium-rough off-road jaunts. (Remember the old saying: a really great 4x4 will get you stuck farther back in the wilderness.) After a lot of research, and looking at a lot of cars, I wound up with the Mercedes ML550. It has decent ground clearance and general off-road ability for the desert southwest, it's very comfortable for long trips, will haul a ton of stuff and a dog, and will do 0-60 in 4.8 seconds. For me, at this point, it's the perfect car. It's not cheap.
"On the other hand, I think the Ferraris, etc., have to be looked upon more as art works than as driving cars. Every once in a while, a Chinese princeling will kill himself in LA in one of them, but even in Beverly Hills, you don't see that many—and almost everyone in the upper parts of the Hills could afford one. But they just seem silly, unless perhaps you are very rich, and collect them very selectively, as art works.
"I think they're also less tenable in the U.S. Europeans, although a certain group of them would deny it, are much more class-ridden than the U.S. That's why even long-time democratic countries still have people called 'count' or 'duchess' or whatever, who are treated with undeserved deference, and a car like a Ferrari becomes a symbol not only of class, but also an object of envy for people who don't belong to that class. So if a middle-class guy gets rich in business, he might buy one to project an image of himself as belonging to that upper class....
"In the U.S., on the other hand, I think the sight of a Ferrari on the street less often brings up a surge of envy, than it does the thought, 'dipshit.'"
Mike replies: I hope no Ferrari drivers read this blog.
AL C.: "I own a Ferrari, an F430, and I enjoy reading TOP. The best description I've heard used re what makes driving a Ferrari such a surpassing experience is that the car literally fizzes. You feel the fizz through every part of your body. It's worth every penny. The only thing that compares is to play a Ken Wilkinson Decca recording through a pair of Genesis Ones. Same fizz."
John: "Back in the days I test drove a Porsche 911 and a Corvette, each for one week. After that I concluded that my own Mazda Miata delivered the most smiles per dollar and actual fun of driving on real roads. Sold the Miata after the second kid was born. One day, I will have one again."
Michael Matthews: "How about more info on that Mazda Miata? If it's a magazine article—what, where, when? I'm blissfully happy in the Miata on two-lane country roads, mild day, top down. But it is underpowered. The adaptation shown is way, way overpowered. But there may be a workable compromise someday. It's wonderful to have a brand new 50-year old two seat roadster, but the (necessary) automatic transmission means it does need a bit of a boost."
Mike replies: It's a conversion called a "Habu" by Flyin' Miata, a shop in Western Colorado. They even have "build diaries" at the website.
The hardnosed rec for a Miata with a useful power upgrade would be an NC Miata (2005–current) with a new suspension and a supercharger. Takes care of the power. (The stock suspension is squishy.) The sentimental recommendation, however, would be an NB, like I have, or an NA, if you are small enough to fit in one (I just barely fit into the NB, and as it is the crown of my head is out in the slipstream). Solution for more power is typically an aftermarket turbocharger, but that's not for me—the only place I miss the power is at low revs. At high revs the stock engine is very nice, at least on Uncle Sam's roads.
Patrick: "As a minimalist, I actually brag about what I do without in a car. I drive about as base a base model car as you can find—by desire—and still wish it had less. Ultimately, I am more impressed by solid engineering and decent craftsmanship in a minimalist design at an affordable price than all the expensive bells and whistles in the world. Any manufacturer can throw a bunch of excess into a car when they price it high enough, but the logistics required to make a good, well-engineered car at a low price are far more impressive to me."
Mike replies: I sympathize. Jay Leno talks about how he appreciates cars that were the product of a single individual's vision. The problem there is that there are no longer any such cars being made...virtually every car readily available to the public is the product of—in effect—a committee. So a car with a strong vision of what you're describing is unlikely to exist, because marketers tie "higher quality" and "more features" together. Cars that are basic in the sense of "no frills" are also likely to be cheap, with compromised materials and components.
MarkB: "In the late '80s, I lucked into a backstage pass for a Pink Floyd concert (long post-Roger Waters) and through some twists of circumstance, found myself talking to Nick Mason (the drummer, whom most backstage didn't recognize) about his '63 ('not '62!') Ferrari 250 GTO and the annual 'GTO Owner's Club Rally' that many well-heeled (and a few less-heeled) enthusiasts participated in.
"Mr. Mason is in the price-no-object category of 'car guys,' but he still wants to drive every single vehicle he owns, and drive it hard. He also said something incredible about his life in the band and their success which provided the money to buy all those cars (somewhat paraphrased by my muddy memory)—'The music and cars...it's all just wonderful stuff made by people who care, but it won't last beyond a single human lifetime...so why not play it loud and drive it to pieces? That's simple enough.'
"My 'dream car' is a 1970 Jaguar E-type convertible. Simple enough."
Dave Stewart: "Come now, Mike, don't be so modest. As I alluded to in reply to an earlier post, I took a recent film photo that was very relevant to you and the website. Now that an appropriate post has appeared, the true TOP-mobile can be revealed. Spied in Inverness (Scotland) on the 28th August. I dusted down the scanner today especially:
Jim G: "If they can't tow a boat or haul 4x8 sheets of plywood, then what good are they?"